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UCL Festival of Culture: Me and My Selfie

utnvlru1 June 2016

2015_White_House_Astronomy_Night_by_Harrison_Jones_03_(cropped_to_Ahmed_Mohamed)As part of the UCL Festival of Culture, Professor Lucy O’Brien (UCL Philosophy) delivered a talk entitled ‘Feeling self-conscious: Me and My Selfie’ on Friday 27th May.

The title of the lecture might have implied we were going to take a look at the popular current discourse that our current obsession with taking  ‘selfies’ – using smartphones to take images of ourselves to share online – is a sign that social media is damaging our psyches and turning us all into self-obsessed narcissists.

However, in her talk Professor O’Brien gave an overview of the philosophy of self-consciousness and self-image and tied this in with the implications of our use of smart phones, without making a judgement about whether or not our increasing desire to take and post images of ourselves is necessarily a negative thing.

The lecture gave us definitions of different forms of ‘self-consciousness’, such as ‘ordinary self-consciousness’ – which is being aware of oneself, perhaps if we are giving a talk or speech and people are therefore looking at us, but not necessarily in an uncomfortable or painful way.

“Human beings have different ways of being self-conscious” explained Professor O’Brien. “We can be self-conscious from the inside in an introspective way, or from the outside, aware of ourselves in an ‘objectual’ sense in relation to material things, or experience ‘interpersonal self-consciousness’ in relation to other people”.

People are of course self-conscious to different degrees – some may be more aware of themselves and how they feel others are perceiving them than others. What’s significant about the age we now live in is that “the props that enable us to become self-conscious from the outside have multiplied”.

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Violence, the state and civil society in Mexico

ucyow3c14 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Anna Tyor, International Relations MSc

Javier Trevino-Rangel, a professor at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, went from city to city in Mexico interviewing middle class residents about violence in their communities and heard the same responses over and over again, all over the country: “The media blows things out of proportion”; “We need more reliable information”; and “I just skip this section in the newspaper”.

As we shifted chairs to make room for a growing audience, five distinguished speakers anxiously looked around the room hoping to address these issues by explaining challenging topics in Mexico including drug trade, militarisation of the state, rural violence, social media and human rights.

Following the disappearance of dozens of student teachers in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico and the world cried out in protest after the discovery of mass shallow graves filled with their singed bodies. This poignant talk convened by the Radical Americas Network at the UCL Institute of the Americas came in light of these recent murders and attempted to shed light on who is to blame for such atrocities.

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Freedom of the press vs. privacy rights

Ruth Howells17 February 2012

The focus of the seventh UCL Laws/Bindmans debate, held on 8 February, would have struggled to be more topical against the backdrop of the ongoing Leveson Inquiry.

The Inquiry was set up to look at the practices and ethics of the press in the wake of Summer 2011’s phone-hacking scandal, which sent shockwaves through the UK media – the full repercussions of which are yet to play out.

The panel convened by UCL Laws and the law firm Bindmans to debate privacy and the media would have struggled to have a greater level of combined insight into the topic.

Media heavyweights

Tessa Jowell, Labour MP and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, joined Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, and Gill Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services at the Guardian. The fourth panel member was Max Mosley, former motorsport figure and focus of one of the most famous recent examples of a media-driven sex life exposé.

An audience of lawyers, law students and journalists gathered to hear what the panel had to say about the issues surrounding self or statutory regulation of the press, how the current system might be reformed and whether regulation is possible or desirable.

We’ve been here before

Lord Justice Leveson is not the first to have looked in detail at these issues. In the early 90s, the Calcuttt committee grappled with the topic, with David Mellor saying at the time that the press were “drinking in the last chance saloon.”

Some might say that they’re still there, steadfastly propping up the bar – resistant to any change and knowing that parliament will be unwilling to legislate when they risk association with oppressive regimes – especially when they have themselves been in the pockets of the media barons.

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Tweeting to Topple Tyranny

news editor18 November 2011

Anna Donovan, a UCL Laws PhD candidate, reports on the third UCL Centre for Ethics & Law Annual Lecture, “Tweeting to Topple Tyranny: Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility” (live-tweeted by @UCLethicsandlaw). The lecture was presented on 15 November by Professor Erika George (S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah) together with Dr Nina Seppala (Department of Management Science and Innovation, UCL) and chaired by the Dean of UCL Laws, Professor Dame Hazel Genn.

Given the use of social media to mobilise the UK riots this summer, this was a timely as well as highly engaging lecture during which Professor George discussed the emerging (and fast changing) issues arising from the special relationship that we all have with social media.

Professor George discussed a number of key considerations regarding our relationship with social media, although the central question of the lecture asked whether this special relationship gave rise to particular obligations of corporate social responsibility for social media companies. The large audience from a wide range of backgrounds including academia, practice, regulation and industry was a testament to the relevance of the subject matter and the interest in Professor George’s thoughts on this complex issue.
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